Political parties in Germany

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According to the party privilege, political parties in Germany are given an increased guarantee of protection and continuity ( party democracy ) because of their special importance for the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany . Article 21 of the German Basic Law states: “The parties participate in the formation of the political will of the people. Its establishment is free. Their internal order must correspond to democratic principles. [...] ". The party law regulates the establishment and development of political parties .

Legal basis

Basic Law

The position of political parties in Germany is described in Article 21 of the Basic Law as follows:

“The parties help shape the political will of the people. Its establishment is free. Your internal order must correspond to democratic principles. They have to give a public account of the origin and use of their funds as well as their assets.

Parties which, according to their goals or the behavior of their supporters, aim to impair or eliminate the basic freedom and democratic order or to endanger the continued existence of the Federal Republic of Germany are unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court decides on the question of unconstitutionality . "

The tasks of the parties and their important role in modern states are recognized for the first time in a German constitution . The inclusion of the parties in the Basic Law is seen as a lesson from the Weimar Republic ; in fact, after 1945 there was also a trend in other countries to include parties in their constitution. The reason for this is the great importance of parties in the modern state.

A party has to abide by rules, for this it can be promoted and only banned under more difficult rules. Only parties are allowed to participate in Bundestag and Landtag elections. Therefore one speaks of a party privilege .

Definition in the party law

According to § 2 Law on Political Parties (Party Law), parties are defined as follows:

"§ 2 Concept of the party

(1) Parties are associations of citizens who permanently or for a longer period of time exert influence on the formation of political will for the federal or state level and want to participate in the representation of the people in the German Bundestag or a state parliament, if they, according to the overall picture of the actual circumstances, in particular according to the size and stability of their organization, according to the number of their members and their appearance in public, offer a sufficient guarantee for the seriousness of this objective. Only natural persons can be members of a party.
(2) An association loses its legal status as a party if it has not participated in a Bundestag election or a Landtag election with its own nominations for six years.
(3) Political associations are not parties if
  1. the majority of its members or the members of its board of directors are foreigners or
  2. their seat or their management is outside the scope of this law. "

The provisions of the German Civil Code (BGB) apply to the parties , unless special laws provide otherwise. Accordingly, they are legally competent and non-legal associations under civil law with special rights and obligations.

Parties must register with the Federal Returning Officer and deposit the statutes, program and the names of the board members there. Anyone can access this data free of charge by post or via the Internet. The current address directory of all registered parties is available online as a PDF file. A party in Germany officially begins its work with the founding assembly.


The parties give themselves a basic program that is usually valid for several years or decades. In the basic programs, above all, the values ​​and ideologies are laid down.

Before each election date and for the future are legislative period certain election programs or government programs decided.

In addition to the federal level, programmatic resolutions are also common at the state level and in the municipalities. In addition, there are also programmatic resolutions on individual subject areas on current occasions, which should fill out and supplement the basic program. After the reunification of Germany, the German parties mostly also adopted new basic programs.

Tasks of the parties

In § 1 of the Law on Political Parties, a general task of parties is to participate in the formation of the political will of the people in all areas of public life and then eight points on how this task is to be implemented in particular:

“(2) The parties contribute to the formation of the political will of the people in all areas of public life, in particular by influencing the shaping of public opinion, stimulating and deepening political education and the active participation of citizens in political life promote, train citizens capable of assuming public responsibility, participate in federal, state and local elections by nominating candidates, influence political developments in parliament and government, introduce the political goals they have developed into the process of state decision-making and to ensure a permanent lively connection between the people and the state organs. "

Party funding

In Germany, the parties receive donations , membership fees and other income as well as government grants.

Development of the parties in Germany

After many parties were elected to the Bundestag in the first federal election , some feared "Weimar conditions" again ( party fragmentation ). The number of parliamentary groups decreased in the first legislative period . In the subsequent elections, the votes were almost entirely concentrated on the four parties ( CDU / CSU , SPD , FDP ), which formed three parliamentary groups. It was not until 1983 that another party, the Greens , made it into the Bundestag. Since reunification , the PDS and its successor Die Linke have been represented in the Bundestag. The FDP failed for the first time in the 2013 federal election due to the 5 percent threshold , but returned to the Bundestag in 2017. In the 2017 federal election , the AfD made it into the Bundestag, so that six parliamentary groups have been represented in the Bundestag since that election.

Party criticism

In Germany, criticism of the power and work of the parties is often voiced. This criticism is often described with the political catchphrase of disaffection with parties (see also disaffection with politics ). The following points of criticism are mentioned:

  • the faction obligation
  • the financing of political parties and donations scandals, general corruption
  • Populism , lack of courage to represent a minority opinion for reasons of election campaigning
  • nepotism
  • An oligarchy emerges
  • lack of internal party democracy
  • too little distinction in political action
  • Creation of enemy images in the election campaign in order to distract from one's own mistakes / unwillingness to admit one's own mistakes / arrogance
  • Willingness to make economically senseless decisions in order to convince the politically inexperienced part of the population (frequent criticism from economists)

Parties in the 19th German Bundestag

German Bundestag

Bundestag, May 23, 2002

Memorial event in the Bundestag (May 23, 2002)

Allocation of seats in the 19th German Bundestag see also: List of Bundestag Members
fraction Seats proportion of
246 34.7%
152 21.4%
Alternative for Germany
89 12.6%
Free Democratic Party
80 11.3%
The left
69 9.7%
The green
67 9.4%
Non-attached 6th 0.8%

Six parliamentary groups and eight (2017-2019) or seven (since 2020) parties have been represented in the German Bundestag since the 2017 Bundestag election : Union (CDU and CSU), SPD, AfD, FDP, Die Linke and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen. The representatives of the Blue Party , which was dissolved at the end of 2019, are non-attached .

Almost all influential parties are supported by more or less independent youth organizations : the Young Union (CDU / CSU), the Jusos (SPD), the Young Alternative (AfD), the Young Liberals (FDP), the Left Youth Solid (Die Linke) and the Green Youth (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen).


The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) was founded in 1945 as a non-denominational successor party to bourgeois , Christian and nationally liberal parties ( Center Party , DDP , DVP, etc.). In terms of content, it is inclined towards Christian social teaching as well as conservatism and liberalism and thus covers a Christian-social and, in particular, a liberal-conservative spectrum. In the course of reunification, the CDU (East) became part of the CDU on October 1, 1990. The CDU (East) was still a GDR bloc party until 1989 and saw itself as a “party of socialism”. The GDR block party DBD ( Democratic Peasant Party of Germany ) also represented the SED line in essential points until 1989 and joined the CDU after reunification. With the exception of Bavaria, the CDU is represented throughout Germany. In its history, the CDU provided 5 of the 8 previously 8 Federal Chancellors of the Federal Republic of Germany. Together with the CSU and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) it forms the current coalition government of the Federal Republic of Germany, whose Federal Chancellor is the former CDU Federal Chairwoman Angela Merkel .

The Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) has a more conservative orientation than the CDU, but in economic and social policy it is considered to be more oriented towards the welfare state. The party only runs for election in Bavaria. Instead, the CDU does not have its own regional association there. It forms a parliamentary group with the CDU in the German Bundestag , together they are called "the Union" or " Union parties ".


The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), including its predecessor organizations, has existed since 1863, making it the oldest existing political party in Germany. She founded the tradition of social democracy . It was re-established in 1945 after being banned during the Nazi era . Since its Godesberg program of 1959, it no longer sees itself officially as a workers' party , but as a people 's party that wants to be eligible for election by broad strata. Her motto is "Freedom, Justice and Solidarity". With Willy Brandt , Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder , the SPD has so far provided three Federal Chancellors.

Alternative for Germany

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was founded on February 6, 2013, and held its first public meeting on March 11, 2013 in Oberursel . In the 2013 federal election, the party initially only achieved a second vote result of 4.7% and failed to pass the 5 percent hurdle . At first it was particularly critical of the euro and was therefore often described in the media as an “anti-euro party”. She also advocated the return of EU competencies to the member states, more direct democracy and a tax reform based on the Paul Kirchhof model . In its early days it was mostly classified as conservative and economically liberal . However, observers and the media have increasingly categorized certain political demands, formulations and members as right-wing populist . Some political scientists also recognize right-wing extremist tendencies in parts or certain leaders of the AfD . In particular, the Thuringian AfD politician Björn Höcke as the figurehead of the right- wing extremist wing is accused of racist and völkisch-nationalist views. The deselection of the previous party chairman Bernd Lucke in July 2015 was seen as a further shift to the right. Since then, various experts have also seen volkish-nationalist and anti-Semitic tendencies in parts of the party . In May 2014, the party managed to move into the European Parliament . Since then it has been able to win mandates in all subsequent state elections and is now represented in all state parliaments (as of 2018). In the 2017 federal election , the AfD entered the federal parliament for the first time as the third strongest force with 12.6%. The main reason for their success is the so-called “ refugee crisis ”.

Free Democratic Party

The Free Democratic Party (FDP) was founded in 1948 and refers in its self-image to the tradition of German liberalism , which was organized in 1861 with the German Progressive Party in Prussia as the first political party in Germany in the sense understood today. The modern FDP stands for more freedom and responsibility of the individual as well as for greater restraint on the part of the state, particularly in economic matters, but also in civil rights issues.

Before the reunification of Germany, the FDP united in 1990 with the LDPD (Liberal Democratic Party of Germany) and the NDPD (National Democratic Party of Germany in the GDR), which until 1989 acted politically as block parties alongside the Socialist Unity Party of Germany .

In the 2013 federal election , the FDP missed the five percent hurdle in federal elections with 4.8% and was therefore no longer represented in the Bundestag for the first time in its history. Since then, however, the party has been able to move into nine state parliaments and the European Parliament. In the 2017 Bundestag election , she was able to return to the Bundestag.

The left

The Left came into being on June 16, 2007 from the merger of the PDS (formerly SED ), which was more anchored in East Germany, and the WASG, which was dominated by West Germany . The party aims to overcome capitalism towards a democratic socialism . Some political scientists and representatives of other parties also classify the party as populist .

In 2005 the WASG party was founded in protest against the policies of the red-green federal government, on the initiative of left-wing trade unionists and former SPD members who were critical of the government. For the 2005 Bundestag election , the PDS opened its electoral lists to WASG candidates. For this reason, the PDS changed its name to Linkspartei.PDS. In terms of content, the Linkspartei.PDS invoked democratic-socialist ideals and claimed to cover the politically left-wing democratic spectrum in Germany. The left, members of the left and individual organizations within the party have been observed several times in the past by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution because of left-wing extremist efforts . In particular, the Communist Platform (KPF), a political association within the party, is rated by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution as left-wing extremists. In the past few years, the media have also repeatedly addressed anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist tendencies within the party.

Alliance 90 / The Greens

The Greens emerged as a nationwide party in 1980 from parts of the New Social Movements , for example the women's movement at the time , the peace and ecological movements of the 1970s. In 1983 they entered the Bundestag for the first time. In 1990 they merged with the East German Greens and in 1993 with Bündnis 90 to form Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . A major thematic focus of the party is environmental protection. The party is also considered to be left-wing liberal and is inclined to multiculturalism . They are more strongly represented in the western federal states. In 1985 (in Hesse) they participated in a state government in a coalition with the SPD for the first time, then in many other states and finally, from 1998 to 2005, in the federal government. In recent years there have been several coalitions with the CDU at state level.

Parties outside the German Bundestag

In addition to the parties represented in the Bundestag, there are numerous regional and small parties whose political influence at the federal level is usually limited to extra-parliamentary activities due to the five percent hurdle in Germany . Regionally strong parties have the option of entering the Bundestag through direct mandates. With at least three direct mandates, the party is exempt from the five percent hurdle. Since the introduction of this regulation, however, this has only been achieved by the German party , which in 1957 achieved 17 seats with 3.4% of the second votes through six direct seats, as well as the PDS , which skipped the threshold clause in 1994 with four direct seats and got 30 seats with 4.4% of the second votes , In 2002, however, only achieved two direct mandates and accordingly was represented with only two seats in the Bundestag.

In the general election in 2017 were 63 parties in the 2014 European elections, 25 political parties and other political associations to. In addition to the four parties in the Bundestag, nine other parties entered the European Parliament. Three other parties or groups of voters are represented in state parliaments.

Pirate party

The 11th strongest party in the 2017 federal election was the Pirate Party Germany . The pirates emerged on September 10, 2006, following the Swedish model, as a protest party against the increasing surveillance and restriction it complained about. a. on the Internet by the state and the copyright users. They focus on the topics of freedom of information, civil rights, free education and "transparency instead of corruption". In 2009 a member of the Pirate Party was temporarily represented in the Bundestag when the SPD MP Jörg Tauss moved over . In the election for the Berlin House of Representatives in 2011 , the pirates were able to enter a state parliament for the first time. In 2012 they were able to win seats in all three state elections, in Saarland , Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia . Since then, however, it has failed in all other state elections as well as in the 2013 federal election because of the five percent hurdle. In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017 , the pirates lost their last state parliament mandates in a German state.

Right and far right parties

In the first electoral periods there were right-wing conservative parties in the Bundestag such as the German Reich Party (1950) , the German Party (DP) and the Association of Expellees and Disenfranchised . Until 1961, the German party was represented by direct seats in the Bundestag, as the CDU left electoral districts to it. In the 1940s and 1950s, the DP campaigned primarily against communism and socialism , the planned economy and land reform , and was mainly committed to former members of the armed forces and displaced persons. In addition, the party oriented itself towards bourgeois-conservative values ​​and worked on the basis of the Basic Law. From 1961 to 2017, parties to the right of the Union in the political spectrum were no longer elected to the German Bundestag. At the state level, right-wing parties could temporarily move into parliaments.

The Socialist Reich Party of Germany (short name: SRPD), also Socialist Reich Party (short name: SRP), was a right-wing extremist party that saw itself in the tradition of the NSDAP . The party program of the SRP was therefore largely based on that of the NSDAP. The party won 11.0% of the vote in the state elections in Lower Saxony in May 1951. In October 1951, the party was able to win 7.7% of the vote in the general election in Bremen . In 1951, the then federal government under Konrad Adenauer banned affiliated organizations such as the paramilitary steward group Reichsfront and at the same time decided to initiate a ban procedure for the party itself. In 1952, the SRP was finally banned by the Federal Constitutional Court as unconstitutional.

The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) was founded in 1964 and essentially arose out of the various right-wing conservative and national liberal parties and groups of that time. At the end of the 1960s she was represented for one electoral term in seven of the then ten West German state parliaments. After 1970, militant groups in the party increasingly gained influence. At the beginning of the 1990s, the then federal chairman and Holocaust denier Günter Deckert began to radicalize the party further. National Socialist elements were now openly anchored in the party. After German reunification, she achieved occasional successes in elections, so that she was represented in the state parliament for two terms each in Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. At the end of 2010, the NPD merged with the right-wing extremist German People's Union (DVU) , which was also successful in some state elections . There have already been two party prohibition proceedings against the NPD, from 2001 and from 2013 . In January 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court also rejected the second application for a ban. Although the judges saw it as proven that the party was anti-constitutional, the NPD did not have the "potential" to eradicate democracy in Germany.

The DVU was a right-wing extremist party that was originally founded as an association by the publisher Gerhard Frey in 1971 and led by him for 38 years. She was able to move into state parliaments nine times. She achieved her greatest electoral successes in Bremen , Brandenburg and especially in Saxony-Anhalt . The DVU turned against a united Europe, relativized and played down the Holocaust and the German war guilt and was classified as ethnic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic. After the failed merger with the NPD, the party finally disbanded in 2011.

The Republicans (REP) were founded in 1983 by former CSU members as a right-wing conservative party and were able to move into the European Parliament and the House of Representatives in (West) Berlin in the 1980s and in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament in the 1990s. Three politicians who had entered the Bundestag as Union representatives switched to the Republicans, two from 1983 to 1985 and one from 1993 to 1994. The party was observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution at times. It has currently not been represented in any parliament for a long time.

From 2001 to 2004, the Rule of Law Offensive party (also the Schill party) was represented in the Hamburg citizenship and formed the state government there together with the CDU and FDP. In the public discussion, the party was perceived as a right-wing conservative, but above all as a right-wing populist protest party.

The Liberal-Conservative Reformers party ( short name LKR, until November 2016 Alliance for Progress and Awakening, ALFA) is a small Eurosceptic party that was founded on July 19, 2015 in Kassel as a split from Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The party is currently represented by a member of the Bremen citizenship. These MPs have switched from the AfD to the party. In state elections, the party itself has received between 0.3% and 1% of the vote.

Furthermore, there are numerous primarily regionally active small parties and groups of voters, for example the right-wing conservative German Social Union (DSU), which is active in the new federal states , the voter association Bürger in Anger , which is represented in the Bremen state parliament , the citizens' movement pro NRW active in North Rhine-Westphalia or from the Environment of the NPD existing citizens' initiative to stop foreigners in Munich and Nuremberg.

Left and far left parties

In the 19th century, among other things, left-wing parties and groups remained excluded from parliaments for relatively long periods of time , were banned or, due to a census suffrage , were only underrepresented in chamber parliaments in relation to the actual majority in the population. This was especially true for socialist-inspired associations, which, especially in the 19th century, but also up to the present day, aimed for and in some cases implemented revolutionary upheavals. Accordingly, these groups have always been actively involved in revolutions , uprisings , revolts and other social (class) struggles throughout modern times or led them.

Today, in addition to the party Die Linke , which is represented in the Bundestag, there are many extra-parliamentary political groups with varying degrees of effectiveness that relate to left-wing positions. The substantive ideas about what left politics is striving for and by what means are very heterogeneous.

The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was a communist party in Germany that was founded on January 1, 1919. It emerged from several left-wing revolutionary groups that united after the First World War in the course of the November Revolution of 1918. After the Second World War, the KPD was re-established on a pan-German level under the leadership of Walter Ulbricht , who would later be chairman of the GDR State Council . After the division into two German states, the KPD initially continued to work in the Federal Republic until it was banned in 1956 .

In response to this, the German Communist Party (DKP) was founded in 1968 on the initiative of the GDR state party SED . Since she defended political positions of the then Eastern Bloc to a considerable extent, such as the violent suppression of the popular uprising of June 17, 1953 in the GDR and the Prague Spring in 1968, as well as the construction of the wall and welcomed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, she was able to enter the Federal Republic never achieve significant election results. The Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin , which emerged from the West Berlin part of the SED, dissolved shortly after reunification. In the 1970s in particular, the Maoist-oriented so-called K groups emerged , some of which or their successor organizations still exist today. In addition, some Trotskyist small parties existed or still exist.

Among the communist parties, in addition to the DKP, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany and the Trotskyist-oriented Socialist Equality Party have taken part in federal and state elections in recent years . The Stalinist-oriented Communist Party of Germany ("KPD-Ost" or "KPD (Red Flag)"), founded in East Berlin in 1990 , took part in state elections in the new federal states. Other radical left parties pursue a de-Christian strategy , only take part in local elections or are mainly active in trade unions and extra-parliamentary activities and are therefore not parties within the meaning of the party law.

Regional and ethnic minority parties

A special case is the state parliament of Schleswig-Holstein , where due to a special regulation for the Danish minority, the South Schleswig voter association was legally exempted from the five percent hurdle. The regulation also applies to the Bundestag, but the SSW has not run for Bundestag elections since the 1950s.

In the election for the Brandenburg state parliament, the Sorbian minority is also exempt from the five percent hurdle. The Sorbian Lusatian Alliance has not yet stood in the state elections. In Saxony, also a settlement area for the Sorbs, there is no exemption from the threshold clause. The Friesen party sees itself as a representative of the Frisian minority, but is not exempt from the threshold clause in Lower Saxony.

The Bavarian Party as a regional party was represented in the Bundestag from 1949 to 1953 and in the Bavarian State Parliament from 1950 to 1966, and in the Bavarian state government from 1954 to 1957 and 1962 to 1966 . Since 1966 it only has seats in local parliaments and in district assemblies . Other regional parties (e.g. the Westphalia ) are practically irrelevant.

Local parties and voter groups

In the elections to local parliaments, and in some cases also in state elections, independent groups of voters stand for election as well as parties . These are partly organized in the Federal Association of Free Voters . In the state elections in Bavaria in 2008 , the Free Voters of Bavaria were the first to enter a state parliament. The Federal Association has been represented by one member in the European Parliament since 2014. In September 2014 , the independent United Citizens Movements / Free Voters from Brandenburg moved into the Brandenburg State Parliament.

Interest parties

Many of the small parties existing in Germany are interest parties and largely politically insignificant. These often focus on a specific target group - for example the Gray Panthers as a party of pensioners or the family party of Germany represented in the European Parliament as a party of parents - or on a limited topic - for example the animal protection party, which is also represented in the European Parliament .

The Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) came into being in 1982 as a conservative split from the Greens. It focuses on Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and has been represented in the European Parliament since 2014.

Some parties explicitly address religious people. These are, for example, Alliance C - Christians for Germany or Alliance for Innovation and Justice for Muslims. Or they turn to all people in order to be able to make “rational politics in the interests of all”, like the party of humanists.

The V-Party³ - party for change, vegetarians and vegans is a party founded on April 30, 2016 as part of the VeggieWorld trade fair in Munich. The V-Party³ focuses on the subjects of environmental and climate protection, animal rights and consumer protection. According to its own statements, it is also committed to equal opportunities, social justice and equality, which also includes the introduction of an unconditional basic income. The V-Party³ took part in the 2017 federal election in twelve federal states and received 64,130 second votes (0.1%).

Other parties

The PARTY is a satirical project, it is led by editors of the satirical magazine Titanic. It is the only party openly committed to populism , a central demand is the rebuilding of a wall between West and East Germany. It has been represented in the European Parliament since 2014, won numerous mandates in local elections and, with 1.0% of the free voters, became the strongest party not represented in parliament in the 2017 Bundestag election with 1.0%. The PARTY is supported by numerous celebrities, some of whom also stand as candidates for them in elections.

Furthermore, there are several parties in Germany that stand out for their radical, sometimes absurd political demands. Some of these are fun parties . The APPD sees itself as an "advocate of the mob and social parasite" and demands u. a. the right to unemployment with full wages and the abolition of compulsory schooling.


In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany there have been two party bans : Against the Socialist Reich Party in 1952 and the Communist Party of Germany in 1956. An NPD ban proceedings failed in 2003 mainly because of coordination errors at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the constitutional protection offices of the federal states, as V-people also at the management level the party were active. On December 3, 2013, the ban on the NPD was requested for the second time and rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017 due to the party's insignificance.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Directory of the parties and political associations that have deposited party documents with the Federal Returning Officer in accordance with Section 6 (3) of the Political Parties Act
  2. bundestag.de: Distribution of seats in the 19th German Bundestag
  3. Researchers: AfD is establishing itself in the long term. N-TV, August 20, 2018, accessed August 21, 2018 .
  4. ^ "Too much passion" Zeit Online, last seen on May 3, 2016.
  5. Left-wing politicians on the list of anti-Semites 2014 Die Welt, December 2014, last seen on May 3, 2016.
  6. Secretly into the Reich March 2, 2012, last seen on May 2, 2016.
  7. Merger of DVU and NPD is legally ineffective Tagesspiegel of January 27, 2011
  8. ^ Members of the Bremen Citizenship. Bremen citizenship, accessed on April 8, 2018 .
  9. ^ The last waltz , Spiegel Online, December 4, 1989
  10. 1979: DKP and SED unrestricted solidarity with the USSR , article on gruene-friedenszeitung.de
  11. ^ Revolutionaries from the Row House , Spiegel Online
  12. Interview on the party of humanists - Wiesbadener Kurier. Retrieved May 4, 2018 .